BOFA launching new attack on middle class

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It’s hard to find a single company that has hurt middle class Americans more than Bank of America and the predatory institution’s latest swindle is a charge for using your own money.

That’s right. BOFA is still circling what’s left of the middle class like a shark that smells blood and is intent on the kill. The Charlotte-based bank plans to charge people $5 a month just to use a debit card to spend their own money – above and beyond the fees it already charges when customers withdraw money from an ATM outside its network.

“What Bank of America has done is an outrage,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). “They went overboard.”

If BOFA is successful the whole banking industry could follow suit because it’s the largest bank by deposits. It’s also consistently one of the most uniformly immoral in the way its executives fulfill their fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value.

“Every time Congress takes a step to protect consumers, the banks use it as an excuse to raise fees,” said Mallory Duncan of the National Retail Foundation. “We’ve seen it when Congress limited late fees and overdraft fees and now we’re seeing it with swipe fees.”

This is the bank that thought it would be a good idea to get in on the predatory lending industry in 2008 in the middle of a deepest economic contraction since The Great Depression. BOFA spent $4.1 billion to purchase Countrywide Financial, even though the sub-prime lender was tottering toward bankruptcy beneath a wave of lawsuits.

Did you know that chief executive officers are four times more likely to be psychopaths than the rest of us, according to a book called “The Psychopath Test?” It’s not hard to believe when you realize that banking industry CEOs are now trying to emulate Neflix leader Reed Hastings by charging more money for the same services in the middle of the most trying economic period since The Great Depression.

Empathy anyone?
Basic human goodness?
Loyalty to a fellow American?

Not by them for us – that’s for sure.

Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s chief executive officer, made it clear that the move was motivated by the one quality Wall Street values above all others: greed. He said he has “an inherent duty as a CEO of a publicly held company to get a return for my shareholders” in an interview with Lawrence Kudlow at the Washington Ideas Forum.

Where that return comes from, and when, apparently is not his concern either as a CEO or an American.

The new debit fees would simply exaggerate the industry-wide demise of free checking that’s already underway. Just 45 percent of checking accounts are now free with no strings attached, down from 65 percent last year and 76 percent in 2009, according to Bankrate.com.

President Barack Obama said BOFA’s grab is a perfect illustration of the need for the new Consumer Financial Protection Board, which has been ferociously attacked by Congressional recipients of large corporate donations.

This is “exactly why we need somebody whose sole job it is to prevent this kind of stuff,” Obama said. “Banks can make money, they can succeed, the old-fashioned way – by earning it.”

It’s hard to think of a single industry that’s hurt middle class Americans more than banking. They’re racing the clock on the Oct. 1 imposition of federal reforms designed to police that misconduct, which cap the fees they can squeeze from merchants when you use your debit card to make purchases. Debit fees brought in $19 billion in 2009, according to The Nielson Report, which tracks the payments industry.

In the absence of a similar cap on credit card fees the banking industry is trying to manipulate consumers into helping it continue to fleece merchants by souring us on debit cards.

The best way to stick it to the banks is to just pay cash when you buy something.

This story has been updated with new information and quotes since it was initially written.